10 Tips For Smoking Food

  • For the true BBQ lover, there is nothing better than slow-smoked meat off the grill. Incredible smoky wood aromas mixed with tender meat is a match made in heaven. We've often heard that people are intimidated by the art of smoking; while it does take some knowledge, you don't have to be a BBQ expert to smoke some food. If you own a kamado or kettle style charcoal grill, you can easily smoke briskets, ribs, and roasts. If you want to get serious about smoking, there are also electric smokers to consider. Here's a few tips to get you started, try them out and your taste buds will thank you later. Happy Smoking!

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  • Wood chips create smoke when added to lump charcoal
  • Wood chips create smoke when added to lump charcoal
  • Use Wood Chips, Chunks, or BBQ Pellets.

    Smoking wood chips and chunks are available in a variety of flavors like hickory, apple, and pecan. Be mindful though that different woods create different flavor profiles in your meat. Since you'll be cooking the meat for a long period of time, don't be afraid to stock up. If using a conventional wood smoker, wood chunks are a better choice than chips because they are denser and will last longer.


  • Basting ribs in barbecue sauce on a pellet smoker
  • Go Low and Slow.

    The best way to smoke is slowly using a low, indirect with the addition of wood smoke. If you're using a charcoal grill, build your fire on one side of the grill, and place your meat on the opposite side. The meat should never be directly above a flame when smoking. If using a smoker, your fire will either be in an offset firebox, or separated by a heat deflector in a vertical smoker.


  • Pouring water into the water pan of a vertical smoker
  • Add a Water Pan.

    Fluctuating temperatures and hot air can dry out foods as they smoke. Whenever you cook for long periods of time with charcoal, use a water pan to add humidity and stabilize temperature. Use a large disposable foil pan, and refill it when necessary. You only ever need to use water in the pan, although I like to mix water with apple cider vinegar or apple juice and even add aromatic herbs to the pan when I smoke.


  • Weber Smokey Mountain Charcoal Smoker
  • Don't Overdo the Smoke.

    One of the most common errors novice smokers make is adding too much wood. This can cause the food to taste bitter. Just add a few chunks at a time — the smoke should flow out gently. This is especially important to keep in mind when using electric smokers and gas smokers.


  • Brisket smoking on a Primo Kamado Grill
  • White Smoke is Good.

    Clean streams of white smoke layer your food with incredible aromas and smoky flavor. But if your fire doesn't have enough ventilation, or if the food is directly above the fire, burning juices and poor combustion can lead to black, bitter tasting smoke which can taint the flavor of your BBQ. Opening up your smoker or grill's vents fully will help you get better airflow and more complete combustion.


  • Friends enjoying a beer around a smoker
  • Don't Wander Off Too Far.

    Smoking is a relatively low maintenance style of cooking, but you still need to be mindful and concerned for safety. Don't leave the fire unattended, and check your temperature every hour or so. You may need to add more wood, charcoal, or adjust air vents to keep things going. A good wireless thermometer can help you keep an eye on temperature if you do have to leave the smoker temporarily.


  • Weber Kettle top air vent
  • Airflow is Important.

    In BBQ smokers, vents are used to control airflow and temperature. With a charcoal or wood burning smoker, keeping your vents open is the key to getting good combustion. If the fire gets too hot, you can adjust the vents to cut back on air, but watch your smoke! You need enough airflow to keep the smoke white. A temperature controller is a handy tool to help control airflow and temperature in charcoal smokers.


  • Spraying Ribs on a Charcoal Smoker
  • Mist Your Food.

    Mix a spray bottle with equal portions of apple cider vinegar and water. Every couple hours or so, lightly mist the meat. This will help preserve moisture, keep humidity up, and draws smoky flavor particles to your food like a magnet. Be careful to keep the mist on your meat (where it can do its work before dripping into your water pan) and not on the steel of your smoker.


  • Pork roast being smoked with good bark
  • Don't Worry If It Gets Dark.

    The meat should have a dark mahogany crust that is nearly black. This is called "bark", which is the result of fat, spices, and smoke developing a caramelized crust over the meat. Before you take the meat off the grill, make sure it has a nice layer of bark.


  • Kamado Joe Classic 3 Kamado Grill smoking ribs
  • Open The Lid Sparingly.

    Every time you open the grill, you lose heat and smoke, two important elements for great smoked flavor. Open the lid only when you really need to tend to the fire or the food. Relax, have a beverage, and keep the lid on!


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